The watch must have come off when she hit the ground. It was a nice one, too – a Bulova. See, that’s why I even saw her in the first place. I noticed it lying there on the street. You don’t see Bulovas just anywhere. When I went over to pick up the watch, I could just see her hand and part of her arm showing from behind the dumpster. I didn’t want to go any closer. There was no way I was going to get mixed up in it if someone was dead. I’m not heartless, though. She was somebody’s sister, or girlfriend, or something. So, I went down a couple of blocks and found an open bar. The guy there let me use their telephone when I told him mine was dead. I called the cops and told them about the body, but I didn’t give my name.
My next stop was Rusty Brader’s place. He’s got a pawn and loan shop not too far away. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it looks like even less from the inside. But I like Rusty. He’s a pretty good guy. When I got to the shop, I pulled open the door, and heard the ‘door open’ chime go. Just because Rusty’s got a small shop doesn’t mean he’s stupid. There’s an alarm system, cameras, the whole thing. Rusty looked up from his computer screen and gave me a grin.
‘Kevin! How are you, man?’
‘I’m good. You?’
‘Good. You got something for me?’
‘Yeah, I do. And I really think it’s worth something.’
Rusty raised an eyebrow. He’s used to me bringing him old CDs that no-one listens to, that kind of thing. When I first got laid off, what I sold him was worth some money. You know, my extra TV, my video camera, and a few other electronics. But it’s been a while since I’ve had anything good. I still come in whenever I’ve got something, though. I found a part-time job, but it’s retail and pays nothing. The pawn thing helps me get closer to making ends meet.
‘Let’s take a look,’ Rusty said. He reached out his bear paw of a hand, and I pulled the watch out of my pocket. The light in the shop isn’t very good, even on sunny days, so Rusty turned on the jeweler’s lamp that he keeps behind the counter. He spread the watch out under the lamp and looked at it for a long time. Then, he turned it over and looked at the back of it.
‘Where’d you get this?’ he asked.
‘I found it on the street.’ It was weird Rusty even asked where I got the watch. Usually he doesn’t ask a lot of questions. Now, he gave me a strange look. I didn’t blame him, either. How many people drop expensive watches on the street like that?
‘Swear to God, that’s where it was,’ I said, holding up my right hand, palm towards him. He shrugged, muttered something I couldn’t make out, and looked at the watch again. Finally, he nodded.
For the next few minutes, we talked about the price. He started at fifty dollars. I started at five hundred. We shook hands at one seventy-five, and I was on my way. I know, he’s better at this than I am. But one seventy-five is the electricity paid, plus a little extra.
When I got home, I turned on the TV and caught the news break. One of the stories was about the body behind the dumpster. They said her name was Camilla Brader. Something about that name was familiar. Then it hit me. Brader’s not an unusual name, but still, I wondered if she and Rusty were related. I was just about to look up the pawn shop’s number when I heard a knock. Two policemen were at the door.
‘Are you Kevin Marshall?’ one of them asked.
‘Yes, that’s me,’ I said. What were they doing here? Of course! The watch. But wait? How the hell could they know I’d found it and taken it to Rusty’s shop? And, anyway, where’s the crime? I swallowed hard. ‘What’s this about?’
‘Do you know someone named Camilla Brader?’
The next hour or so was a blur. I didn’t know the dead woman – never heard of her. But it turned out she was Rusty’s wife (poor guy!). No wonder he’d acted funny about the watch. But still, why wouldn’t he just ask me what I was doing with his wife’s watch? I tried to explain the whole thing, but the cops wouldn’t listen to me. They kept asking more and more and more questions. Finally, they left. I poured myself a double shot of some cheap whisky I had and sat down to think. After about a half hour, I tried to call Rusty at the shop, but nobody answered. No big surprise there, if he’d just found out his wife was dead.
The police came back the next morning. This time, they didn’t waste a lot of time asking me questions. They took me down to the station, saying they had new evidence they wanted to discuss with me.
‘What new evidence?’
‘Your financial situation. We hear you’ve been pawning a lot lately. So, you saw someone wearing a good watch, and you went for it. Maybe you meant to kill her, maybe not. But it happened.’
‘What? That’s crazy! I told you. I found the watch! She was already dead.’
When we got to the station, the police took me to an interview room. On our way there, we saw Rusty coming in the other direction.
‘Rusty! My God! I am so sorry to hear –’
‘You’re sorry? You’re sorry? You goddamned murderer! You killed my wife!’ He made a move for me, but one of the cops held him back.
‘I didn’t kill anyone!’
Rusty made another move, but he stopped himself. As he turned away, I saw him smile.
He was smiling? What the hell?
‘Rusty! What the hell did you do to me?’ I yelled as the police practically frog-marched me to the interview room.